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    Canadian C-Store Group Calls for Review of Fuel Margins

    The Atlantic Convenience Stores Association wants the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board to approve the first margin increase since 2006.

    NEW BRUNSWICK, Canada -- An association representing convenience stores in Atlantic Canada is calling on the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) to review the profit margin on the sale of gasoline in the province, The Daily Gleaner reported.

    "Convenience store owners, many of whom sell gas, are getting squeezed. Our costs, including wages, are rising dramatically while at the same time our government-regulated product prices, of which gas makes up the largest percentage, are not," Mike Hammoud, president of the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association, said in a news release.

    Wholesale and retail gasoline margins have not increased since New Brunswick began price regulations in July 2006. The EUB reviewed the margins in 2008 but didn't approve an increase, according to the report.

    The provincial government recently announced four new increases to the minimum wage rate between April and September 2010. That's an increase of 21 percent over 18 months in one of the largest cost areas for convenience stores, Hammoud said.

    "We are in favor of Atlantic Canadians making good living wages, but we need the store owners to survive too," he said. "This means that many convenience stores and independent gasoline station owners are faced with nothing but terrible choices of either letting employees go, reducing store hours or in some cases, closing stores. If stores close or if they have to shrink their workforce, nobody wins."

    The association has requested that the EUB conduct a review of maximum margins, maximum delivery costs and the maximum full-service charge to ensure they're justified under section 14(1) of the Petroleum Products Pricing Act -- the same section the EUB used to do its 2008 review, the report stated.

    The Atlantic Convenience Stores Association is a division of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association that represents 1,900 retailers. There are 970 convenience stores with 6,800 employees in New Brunswick, according to the association.

    The Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketing Association also is supporting the request for the EUB to review an increase in the gasoline margin.

    Doug Goss, director of regulatory and finance at the EUB, said he couldn't confirm whether the board had received the association's request for a review. "The board is under no obligation to hold such a review simply because someone requested it," he said.

    Goss said the board would take any such request under advisement and decide if such a review is appropriate. There's no time limit associated with making a decision on that request, he noted. A review can be triggered by an application if the person or organization wishes to pay for the related expenses out of their own pocket, he added.

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